Sunday, January 09, 2011

James B. Ledbetter – EHHS Aggie

I didn’t know Mr. Ledbetter very well but ran across him in the halls enough to form some opinions about him.  He joined the faculty about our 1961 Junior year as an algebra and geometry teacher.  A fairly short man, his manner was friendly and mildly aggressive, but there was a problem…he was EH’s only Aggie, and a vociferous one.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not really an Aggie hater, just more of an Aggie tolerater as are a great many Texans.  For those readers who lack the experience of being subjected to that old time Aggie stuff, let me explain.  Aggies are a subset of Texans, a group unto themselves and proudly so, for reasons that non-Aggies have trouble understanding.

The old timers grew up suffering a variety of deficient circumstances and took themselves to College Station for their initial remediation.  The problem at College Station was yet another set of deficient circumstances that young Aggies had to endure.

Problem #1 was that there were no girls there.  That alone caused raised eyebrows amongst students all around the state and drew even more scrutiny of their student population since few red-blooded males would ever willingly subject themselves to that kind of deprivation. 

Problem #2 was that the campus was located in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles from any real civilization.  A few low buildings and a huge football stadium in the middle.

Problem #3 was that members of the student body squeezed their balls to effect sharp pain in a gesture to “share the pain” of their fighting football team on the field.  Ow-K.

Then there were the uniforms, the paddle hazings, geeky-looking boys, and still no girls.  And our Mr. Ledbetter was an Aggie alum.  As 16-17 year old high school students, we really had no idea how deep the currents ran and that ignorance could be risky to some elements of our well being.  During our Senior year, EHHS won the Ft. Worth football championship, the 9-1-1 Longhorns won the Southwest Conference, and the Aggies went 3-7.

Mr. Ledbetter was a cranky little Aggie most Mondays during Fall 1962.  Most Mondays following his Friday mini pep rallies, EH football players usually came in off a win, the Longhorns always won, and his beloved 3-7 Aggies almost always lost.  That Fall, Mondays were usually grim in Mr. Ledbetter’s world and a lot of us had fun with that.

As I think back on it, that may explain why Mr. Ledbetter is the one EH teacher I recall as having been disingenuous with me.  It was out of character for him, but it was a singularly egregious bit of flim-flammery that I wouldn’t condone even today.  That’s a long time past, to be sure, but I’ve never forgotten it and whatever good points he had in my book were forever scratched away by it.  So, when I see a headline like the one that appeared this weekend, I grin with a special bit of amusement.  Here is another one to stick up your nose, Jimmy.

Post script – Aggies added girls in the early 1970s but were initially only able to fill about 25% of the student population with them; it’s still not yet 50%, but they’re trying.  The real question remains, now that you've got them, do you know what to do with them?

While starting my professional career with one of the large companies in the early 1970s, one of my new colleagues was a recent Aggie graduate.  Although reasonably social, he was quite timid and not at all sophisticated.  Talk got around to an Aggie engineering staple, their senior design project.  When I turned to him and asked what his project had been, he replied without thinking or hesitation, “a tractor seat."

‘nuff said.

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